Olympic decathlons first rose to prominence in America when Bruce Jenner competed in the 1976 games in Montreal. He became an American hero by setting the decathlon world record and taking gold back from the Soviets. In recent years, the decathlon has been much ignored by Americans, even though the reigning Olympic champion, Bryan Clay, is from the U.S.
That should all change this year in London.
Ashton Eaton is entering his first Olympics at the age of 24, and he is one of the best all-around athletes the Games have ever seen. During the U.S. Olympic Trials in June, Eaton set the world record in the decathlon, which had stood for 11 years.
Decathlons are measured in points, each event giving point values depending on performance. The points are then added and the winner is crowned. Eaton's world record stands at 9,039 points and he is only the second man ever to break the 9,000-point mark.
Viewers of the London Games are obsessed with competitors like Usain Bolt, whose speed is unmatched. But ask Bolt to throw a javelin or run long-distance races and he'll likely fare much worse. It is much more impressive for someone to be great at 10 events, and it truly shows athletic ability at its finest.
Still, nobody is talking about the star from Oregon. That doesn't bother Eaton, who isn't too eager to be in the spotlight. Being a humble, small-town kid, fame is not something he's after (via ESPN.com):
"The whole fame thing is an interesting deal," he says. "Somebody becomes famous because they're just doing something they like doing. But it's the fans and everybody else who raise them up, and the person who is famous doesn't control any of that. The people control everything. So they lift the person up, and when the person falls or does something they don't like, the people are like, 'Ohhh, what's this?' It's a Catch-22."
Eaton will take part in the first five events on Wednesday. They include the 100-meter dash, long jump, shot put, high jump and the 400. He will finish on Thursday with the 110-meter hurdles, discus, pole vault, javelin, and the 1500. He is arguably the best athlete at these games, and should bring a gold medal back home to the U.S.
The decathlon will hopefully return to prominence with such a likable star taking part in the London Games. Look for him to dominate the field and make Olympic history.